Today at high noon, Rod Brind’Amour was officially introduced as the new head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes in a press conference alongside owner Tom Dundon and now official general manager Don Waddell.
The press conference is well worth the investment of your time to gain a little bit of insight into Rod Brind’Amour as a head coach on his first full day officially on the job but more significantly to feel the positive vibe emanating out from the media room at PNC Arena. Especially for those who are negative or on the fence on this move, I encourage you to watch the press conference and suck in some of the positive energy. As a Canes hockey fan, you deserve it.
I originally called for Rod Brind’Amour to be named interim coach on March 14 after one of many debilitating losses during the 2017-18 season. To be clear, my intent at that time was simply to make a statement, put a stake in the ground and move forward. One has to wonder if not for the financial situation that ultimately enabled Dundon to see Peters to the door without risking paying him for next season if in fact he would have been on in mid-March. More recently on April 25, I posted a reasonably balanced set of pros and cons on the potential for Rod Brind’Amour to be the next head coach. And yesterday after the announcement that Brind’Amour had been named head coach, I penned some additional notes on the situation.
To be clear, I stand by my original preference for a coach with more head coach experience, and the feel good vibes from Tuesday’s festivities do not magically eliminate the risk inherent in hiring a coach no experience as a head coach at any level. And my memory which is either better or more honest than some others’ fully recognizes that the positive vibe and optimism around both Kirk Muller and Bill Peters was actually pretty similar.
But when you sort through the volumes of press conference and other interview sound bites from today, I think this move really comes down to one single thing from a hockey perspective and another single thing from a hockey community perspective.
From a hockey perspective
I said in yesterday’s article:
The next step up for this team has little to do with systems, tactics and Xs and Os
Building off of what I said in my original article, the next step up for the Hurricanes will not come from tactical changes. It will come when the team is able to exorcise some demons, lift some monkeys off backs and generate a new mentality. I think Brind’Amour gets this, and if he can jolt the system and effect a change in this regard, I think that alone could be the change needed and difference between another playoff miss and a return to postseason action.
And I said in my original article on April 25:
Is Brind’Amour exactly what this team needs right now?
I think that is an interesting question. One could argue that the issue the Hurricanes right now has absolutely nothing to do with systems and tactics. The team has been winning the possession metrics that should theoretically yield wins for years now. Massive improvements in this area are not the primary need. The primary need is righting the ship in terms of mental make up and attitude. If I had to pick an area of coaching where I thought Brind’Amour could excel despite lack of head coaching experience, this would be it. The team desperately needs a change in mindset and attitude. I think Peters’ struggles in this are pretty clearly show that it is not as simple as some might think to change.
And way back in my tirade on March 14, I said:
I actually think that Rod Brind’Amour could prove to be better for this stint of 12 games than the eventual coach. Right now, the team does not need systems, Xs and Os, strategy or anything like that. Very simply, the team desperately needs a change in mindset, mentality, attitude, confidence and whatever else you want to lump into the all-important mental/psychological component of the game. As a successful captain who has been lauded by absolutely everyone ever interviewed about his leadership, Brind’Amour gets the people and motivation part of this game that I think is an Achilles’ heel for Bill Peters. Brind’Amour has been in the midst of all of it with an inside the locker room viewpoint and already knows the individual players and their situations. Combining that with his leadership abilities, I think he more than any outsider has the potential to effect a change in mentality both at an individual player and team level.
Tom Dundon’s version
In a segment talking about the hiring of Brind’Amour, Tom Dundon echoed similar words. He started by saying, “The culture here wasn’t where it needed to be.” Later he said,”I do not believe that the strategy differences are as important as getting the most out of the culture.” Then Dundon followed up by saying, “The important one here in this organization is the effort.”
As a fan…
I do not deny having an inner bias in favor of our Carolina Hurricanes hockey team, but at the same time I take pride in covering the team from a middle ground that equally considers both pros and cons. But for a moment, allow me to write from the angle of a Carolina Hurricanes fan.
As this team and hockey community scratches and claws to find the elusive next round of hockey goodness after repeated restarts, failures, setbacks and tough times, Rod Brind’Amour more than any other thing possible is something that I can get behind.
Rod Brind’Amour as one of us
He is one of us, and significantly, it is in a much deeper sense than the vision of him lifting the Stanley Cup. He was part of the 2001-02 team that was truly the arrival of NHL hockey in North Carolina. And maybe more significantly, when this team was at another low from 2002-03 to 2003-04, Brind’Amour was a player who for all intents and purposes should have left. The difference between Rod Brind’Amour and fellow veteran and theoretical team leader Jeff O’Neill during that time frame was striking. Both players were veterans (O’Neill 28 and Brind’Amour 33 at tail end of 2003-04 season) who seemingly did not fit in the middle of what looked to be a rebuild. Nearly as striking as my image of Brind’Amour lifting the Stanley Cup on June 22, 2006 is my image of him doing interviews during that time frame. Whereas a murmur rose to whisper and ultimately to a loud rumbling in terms of Jeff O’Neill wanting to seek greener pastures and a chance to win a Stanley Cup, Brind’Amour’s similar questioning became equally noisy in his defiant insistence and annoyance with having to repeat again and again that he wanted to stay and help build a winner and that he and everyone else needed to play better. Two years later, Jeff O’Neill was gone to Toronto where he would play out the string on his career which ended after two more seasons. Two years later, Rod Brind’Amour was hoisting the Stanley Cup in Raleigh, North Carolina. The past week has offered a dramatic reminder of this history. Whereas Jeff O’Neill was up in Canada stating his embarassment to be an alumni of the team in a radio interview last week, Rod Brind’Amour is still, 14 years after O’Neill’s departure to pursue a Stanley Cup, in Raleigh having never left.
More significant in my loyalty to Rod Brind’Amour is not the fact that he was captain of the team that won the Stanley Cup. More significant in my loyalty to Rod Brind’Amour is the fact that he chose to stay and captain our hockey team in the down times that preceded that magical season.
In the Tuesday press conference, Brind’Amour said, “This is obviously a job, but it means more to me. This is my town. I live here. I feel like I have a connection to this community.” He then went on to talk about a ‘Hurricanes way’ of sorts and mentioned “bringing in good people.”
In Rod I trust
Rod Brind’Amour is such a good person. He is not some hockey man from wherever else. He is one of us from our hockey community in Raleigh, North Carolina.
As such, Rod Brind’Amour is someone that I can and will stand behind. No doubt, there are risks and no guarantees of success, and his tenure as head coach could end in failure. If we reach the point where this team fails with Rod Brind’Amour at the helm, I will be disappointed in the results but not in the slightest bit disappointed in my decision to hitch my Canes fandom without reservations to one of our own. In Rod I trust.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Recognizing that there are always good vibes with a new coach, is this time different?
2) What do you make of the argument that the primary and maybe only thing this team needs right now is an attitude makeover and that Rod Brind’Amour is exactly the perfect coach in this regard?
3) To what degree does it make sense to value loyalty over legitimate experience?
4) Are you in?!